Safeway: "Stop photographing our horrible, copyrighted cakes"

CakeWrecks reports that a local Safeway bakery has banned all photography in its bakery department, in a desperate, misguided bid to prevent its horrific creations from appearing on CakeWrecks. Safeway employees are to tell potential photogs that its cakes are copyrighted, and may not be photographed.

Today's post requires a special intro, so here's Dara G. to explain:

"My local [CENSORED*] bakery has this new policy - not strictly enforced, but kinda enforced - NO PHOTOS in the bakery department. None, nada. Per an ex-employee there, upper management is afraid that one of that store's specific cakes will be posted on 'that bad cake site.' Per what they tell you in the store, their cakes are 'all copyright protected.'"

(*Store name omitted. Because I care.)

She goes on to say:

"Apparently this new 'no photos' thing came about after y'all had posted their 'Popcorn' cakes on the site."

Ways To Play It Safe


  1. OH – it’s supposed to be a tub of popcorn. I am glad they are labeled. I thought  they were supposed to be cakes on fire.

    1. A cake should fall easily within the grounds of copyrightable creative works:

      A decorated cake is an expression of an idea (not an uncopyrightable idea in itself) and, while a cake is a ‘useful article’, it’s aesthetic features are clearly separable from its utilitarian features.

      However, I would be inclined to imagine that pictures of cakes would fall under ‘fair use’ despite being derivative works of the cakes.

      What I find weirder is that they would bother to invoke copyright at all. So long as they don’t go after a specific protected class, private property-holders have moderately broad latitude to set policies about what can and can’t happen in their establishments. “No photographing the embarrassing cakes” isn’t something you need a copyright claim to uphold.

      1. Because IP is our most valuable asset.
        Claiming its violation of the COPYRIGHT LAW, makes people more willing to delete the photos… because that demand has no grounds for support private property or not.
        Oh and there was that **AA funded study that claimed tons of IP intensive jobs… grocery stores made the list.

  2. I love their meatballs spaghettis cake: it beats any parody about our North American feeding frenzy that I can imagine. Involuntary humor is still humorous.

  3. Huh I’d demand to know the copyright registration number for the cake.
    Pretty sure they can’t produce them.

    But then one wonders if there is actually a SAFE WAY to inform this company that having a thing skin like this leads to more people knowing about their failure to hire people who can spell and not make bunny cakes that look like they have been ball gagged.

    Maybe less time should be spent on chasing customers away and more on keeping the staff from putting icing penii (penises?!) on skeleton cakes…

    1. Per some copyright act in the 1980ties or so you no longer need to register a copyright. Everything is automatically copyrighted upon creation. You can still register a copyright if you want to, but it’s not a prerequisite.

      1. Cakes should be like the fashion industry, there is no copyright there and people copying each other leads to more unique designs.

      2. So, the photo of the cake is for commentary and criticism.  Should fall under the fair use rules.. After all, you are not eating the photo.

      3. Copyright is automatically assigned for the purposes of determining infringement and cease&desists, but a copyright must still be registered in order to sue for damages.

        1. And by the time the lawsuit gets heard in court, the cake will have been eaten by the mice in the evidence storeroom.

        2. And by the time the lawsuit gets heard in court, the cake will have been eaten by the mice in the evidence storeroom.

  4.  You don’t need to register copyright. Copyright exists from the moment you create a work.

    1.  This is true, and it does apply to cakes. What’s more, as a bakery is a store, and this private property, they do have every legal right to prohibit any photography at all if they so choose.

      Still a ridiculous decision on their part though.

      1. Well when your getting a name for making crap cakes its better to invoke the law than to make efforts to improve your cake decorating quality.
        And as was pointed out by the blogger, people will still buy the cakes and take pictures at home.

  5. I wonder if this is a new policy, or the first time these bloggers have heard about it. My wife was asked to stop filming in a Michigan grocery store several years ago with a Flip, when she was just casually vlogging, not part of a 20/20 or Breitbart style sting operation.

    1.  With so many exposes in the news about shoddy business practices I’m pretty sure all major chains have long ago instituted no photography/video policies.  Probably one of those cases where the poorly trained, minimum wage staff wasn’t made aware of it.

    2. You will be hard-pressed to find ANY retail store that allows photography inside. Their given reason is that they assume you’re working for the competition, scoping out their superior store layout.

      1. Not as true as it used to be. I’ve been busted several times taking photos in a retail store. I simply tell them that I’m messaging my wife to see if I’m buying the right one and they go away, usually after giving me a knowing smirk.

        Not once have they noticed I don’t seem to be wearing a wedding ring.

    3.  The likelihood that someone’s filming the store to do such an expose or even just to say something snarky is much greater than the possibility that they want to post something like “this store is great, you should all shop here.” There’s no real upside for them.

  6. What, ever.  Who cares how wrecked the cake is as long as it tastes good.  I mean it’s a cake from Safeway….

    1. What, ever. Who cares how wrecked the cake is as long as it tastes good. I mean it’s a cake from Safeway….

      You’ve obviously never had a cake from Safeway. They are made of… and taste like… sugar, shortening, flour and food coloring.

    2. What, ever. Who cares how wrecked the cake is as long as it tastes good. I mean it’s a cake from Safeway….

      You’ve obviously never had a cake from Safeway. They are made of… and taste like… sugar, shortening, flour and food coloring.

      1.  I also wonder if I’m the only one who gags at the thought that a 3:1 icing to cake ratio is a good idea?

        1. If it’s sugar/Crisco icing, it’s pretty nasty. If it’s homemade chocolate buttercream, you can just skip the cake altogether.

  7. Photos/reproductions of copyrighted material are allowed to be used when reviewing or critiquing a work. I’d say CakeWrecks is pretty explicitly a critique site.

  8. Some Safeway stores make perfectly beautiful cakes.  Not this one, clearly.  I wonder where it is?  I’d like to stop in and order a Monkey Jesus cake.

  9. About 25 years ago, I was asked not to photograph inside a local grocery store. And yes, they can, and yes, it’s legal and stuff.

    And yes, they’re still full of butthurt, and CakeWrecks is still funny as anything.

  10. I check the bakery at my local Safeway fairly often for Cake Wrecks worthy creations, but still haven’t found that special wreck I just had to take home with me. Oh, local Safeway! Please deliver the wreck of my dreams…

  11. I hope they sign over the rights when the cake leaves the store; otherwise there’s a lot of infringing birthday photos they’ll need to DMCA off of Facebook

  12. I hope they sign over the rights when the cake leaves the store; otherwise there’s a lot of infringing birthday photos they’ll need to DMCA off of Facebook

  13. I’m a bit surprised, because I’ve had grocery store security threaten to throw me out of a store for photographing anything. The security guard insisted that this was the policy at every grocery chain he knew of.

    I’d gotten in the habit of photographing things with my smartphone and sending the pictures to my partner, to help resolve ambiguities about shopping lists.

    1. Most stores I’ve been into have a no photo rule – usually posted on the front door.

      As a photographer, they do have the right to ban photos on their property, but it sounds pretty lame to stop people photographing cakes.

      I would think they would be more worried about industrial spies snooping around to see how they are priceing and running their business.

  14. “Bakery, you’ve a call on line 2. Bakery, call on line 2 please.”
    . . .
    “Bakery, call still holding on line 2. Bakery, Barbara Streisand holding on line 2 please.”

  15. We once had a cake like that , she was wonderful , but then in the harsh winter of 78 we had to eat her because cake makers got snowed in . Tis was hard times  but because of Cakes sacrifice we are all still over 34 waist . I remember it well, a episode of 4077 Mash , Hawkeye & crew was making a cake for potters wife Mildred and our little Cake was out of the room and gulp sniff sniff ( head down )  we took a vote . Cake was sweet about it when she found out , she asked for a candle , i still get choked up when i see cakes today’s .  Bless you boing boing for the memories .

  16. Didn’t read all teh  comments, but anyone else notice the ” .I. ” in the R.I.P cake looks like a skeleton boner?

    1. That’s why it’s on Cakewrecks.  Unintentional cocks are one of the more common wreck tropes.

  17. Safeway has a skewed idea of what protections copyright offers.  Here’s a (perhaps not so) quick write-up of how it works:

    You can photograph anything you want, regardless of copyright protection, period.  It’s not the capturing of images and video that requires a release to avoid a copyright claim – it’s the publishing of those captures.  And yes, posting them to Cake Wrecks would constitute “publishing”.  But simply the capturing of those photographs is NOT a violation of copyright, contrary to what many uninformed security guards and/or Safeway employees may believe.

    Now, news media does not require model or “use of image” releases because media reporting is considered “newsworthy”, of benefit to the public rather than for commercial gain.  But if anyone PUBLISHES (not captures, but publishes) the images, it’s possible that a model release or property release might be required.

    When I go out to capture spot news for a local paper, I have no requirement to collect model releases for use of the images because the only people publishing the images would be doing so editorially as news. However, when I shoot an image that is to be used commercially, any commercial publication of that image must have a model release on file or risk civil liability. This doesn’t just apply to the model I’m shooting, but to anyone else in the photo who is recognizable.  This isn’t required for me to TAKE the shot, but would be required for anyone PUBLISHING the shot.

    For example, in addition to models, I shoot a lot of public and private events. Some time ago, someone producing a promotional DVD for Korn contacted me because I shot their most recent tour, and included a lot of crowd shots in my public gallery. He had plenty of performance shots, but needed crowd shots which were apparently in short demand. He specifically asked about one shot, but also wanted a few more for some kind of photo montage in his video. Now, there’s no way I’m going to have model releases on file for random crowd shots while I’m shooting a concert, so I told him this. I’ve fulfilled my obligation to my client by informing him that the images don’t have model releases on file. If I hadn’t, he could potentially sue me for “implying” that the photos either had releases or didn’t require them. Instead, I informed him that I didn’t have them, but wasn’t sure if he needed them. I think he does, but I’m not sure of the entire scope of his video, and besides – I’m not his lawyer. It’s not my job to inform him of his legal requirements; just to protect myself by clarifying that there is no implication that a release is available. Remember: I did not need a release to take the photographs – just to publish them. Now he (or rather, Sony, who is his client, and will ultimately be the “publisher” of the DVD) has the obligation to either obtain releases or to determine that they are not necessary – it’s not my responsibility once I’ve informed them of the status. I have the right to sell the images without release – just not to publish them.  YES, that means I can go out, take photos of random people or property, copyrighted or not, and SELL THEM.  I’m not liable until I publish them, unless I’ve violated someone’s privacy.

    Privacy is another topic entirely, but in short I’m not violating someone’s privacy unless they’re in a place in which they actually have a “reasonable expectation” of privacy.  Generally, you’re safe if you shoot from a public space such as a sidewalk.  However, the exception to this rule is if you use special equipment (such as a telephoto lens) to get photos that would violate someone’s “reasonable expectation” of privacy.  An example of this would be using a long lens to shoot them in their home or while they enter their PIN at an ATM, etc.

    Now, it’s worth mentioning that my posting the images publicly in my portfolio could potentially constitute “publication”, but is generally allowed under fair use because I’m not using the images to promote a product or service; they’re my portfolio as a demonstration of my work. This could be called “art”, in this example. This has been universally accepted as fair use of publication without requiring a release, though as a general rule I will still remove images if asked by a subject. (If memory serves, this has happened a grand total of one time in 10 years of shooting models and events.) I took the image down, and never heard another complaint from the individual. I’d rather remove one image than potentially end up with a lawsuit on my hands. It’s not like I lack a selection of portfolio images to choose from.

    Another item of note: I have no obligation to collect model releases as the photographer, so long as I inform anyone I sell them to that the releases aren’t on file. Only the publisher of the images requires the releases to remain legal. As long as I don’t run afoul of privacy issues (example: shooting someone in their bedroom with a long lens, shooting someone entering their PIN at an ATM, etc.), almost any kind of shooting is legal in my state, which is California. Also, if individuals walk past the camera and are far enough as to be unrecognizable, a model release is generally unnecessary, even if it’s for commercial use – right to ownership of the use of one’s image only applies if you can actually recognize the individual in question.

    One last thing: some states consider recording people on video (with sound) to run afoul of wiretapping laws, i.e. recording people’s voice without their consent. (This is generally only applicable in a state requiring all-party consent, and California is one such state.) Thus, this is a clear difference between photography and video that has a separate set of laws applied to it, if one is shooting with sound. Of course, if sound is not included in the recording, this distinction does not exist. Fortunately, many states are starting to recognize that there is a need to be able to record both video and sound in public spaces for the safety of the public, a la police overstepping bounds or giving inaccurate reports of what occurred. Assuming for the moment that the video remains unaltered and shows the whole story without creative editing (which unfortunately happens often enough to be a problem), police should have no concern of being recorded unless they’re not “doing things right”. But that’s not the world we live in, so we still have photographers, videographers and cell phone bloggers getting arrested for recording police actions. It’s important that we as a society recognize that this sort of coverage is important to protect all of us.

    However, I’m getting a little off-topic at this point so I’ll get off my soap box. I hope my post helps to clarify. :-)

    Also, remember that just because you have rights doesn’t mean they won’t be violated or that you won’t end up behind bars for taking photographs legally. Think carefully how far you want to take things, and seriously consider backing down to avoid confrontation if you don’t really need the shot. I hate paranoid morons who think they can dictate their own inaccurate beliefs of the law to me, but on the other hand, I’m not really interested in risking personal injury or having my gear destroyed by some asshat over a photo that really makes no difference. Sometimes it pays to just back down and wait until the asshat leaves. ;-)

  18. It’s a shame the store doesn’t actually consider improving their product.  But Cakewrecks has been such a great source of amusement for me; I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

  19. Photographers keep getting banned from places because they feel entitled to take pictures of everybody and post them online.  expect this to continue. 

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